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Latest News on Franco Saxon

(April 23)

Horses can't talk, so Franco Saxon's performance at Rangiora yesterday was his way of telling us what we all knew anyway - he needs a break.
Compared to how he'd been going since he joined Craig and Aimee Edmonds' barn, it was rather uncharacteristic of Sax to fade away and run last like he did.
However, he didn't get the best of runs against some quality opposition who are rated much higher than him at this stage of his career; so when they're pinging along at a 1:57 mile rate over 2600 metres and Sax was left parked, he did what 99 percent of horses in the same position would've.
Stand-in driver Tim Williams actually drove him well in my opinion, because after asking Sax to do a bit work early to hold their place, they settled four-deep and then popped off the fence when the moves started to be made from the back.

Normally this would've seen Sax secure a one-one trail for the last lap and a bit, but unfortunately the mover (Tiger Thompson) got around the field at such a tempo that none of the other drivers chose to follow him forward.
Our boy got left parked as a result, and he was always in trouble after that. The important thing is he's showing no ill-effects from his run the next day.
"Yeah he's fine and was bright enough this morning," Aimee said as she rang me on the way back from dropping Sax off at the property of Graham Bunz in Ladbrooks.
This is the location where she and Craig spell all their horses, and Graham doesn't have many other 'outside' horses either so it's an arrangement which works well for both parties.
The horses get to roam in lush paddocks, and are well fed and well looked after while they enjoy time away from the rigours of training and racing.
"Sax has got a paddock mate (the trotter Muscles Galore) and another filly of ours just across the laneway from him - so he's right at home," Aimee said with a smile, adding that fellow goHarness representative Harriet Of Mot will be joining the trio soon after Friday night's Rowe Cup in Auckland.

Aimee anticipates Sax will have about six weeks out, so he'll return to Woodend Beach sometime around early to mid-June and start jogging again.

One of the aims of his next campaign will be to see what he's like from a standing start, which we'll find out about at the trials, as he's only ever had one stand at the races in his entire career.
That was at Addington in February last year, and he did bobble away for a few strides but came down pacing not long afterwards. Not helping matters that night was a horse by the name of Raukapuka Ruler banging into Sax three times prior to the field getting underway.

It held the start of the race up by a couple of minutes and saw Raukapuka Ruler sent to the Unruly, and former trainer/driver Jonny Cox said the experience stirred Sax up as well. Our boy was never asked to line up in anything but mobiles from then on.
Aimee and Craig do feel that being able to get away in stands would "open a whole lot more doors" for Sax as far as racing opportunities are concerned though, but also just want to introduce the idea to him gradually due to some of his traits which they've seen to date.

"We haven't tried him from a stand yet, but sometimes when we're walking through the forest and we have to stop and wait for another horse, he can get a wee bit toey," Aimee said.
"He might be fine, or else he might not be - and then racedays are completely different altogether; we won't know until we try."

(April 18)
Franco Saxon is a confirmed starter at Rangiora on Sunday.

Co-trainer Craig Edmonds rang me this afternoon with the news, but of course we all got the automated text from HRNZ this morning which 'let the cat out of the bag' that Sax was indeed going to take his place in the Group 3 Rangiora Classic.

"Yeah he worked good today - nice and keen as he normally is," Craig said.

"I'll be working him again on Friday, but I'd say we'll be lining up.

"It won't be easy, but at least it's much the same horses he's been racing lately - and performing well against.

"There's really not much for him after Sunday, so he can head for a spell."
Franco Saxon has actually drawn marble two for his current campaign's $30,000 swansong, because another horse with a lesser rating (of one point) snuck in after the initial nominations and has secured the pole position.

If anything though, being one spot off the fence actually gives you better options at the start - rather than 'having to' barrell out to hold your spot.
Regular driver John Dunn has got a couple horses of his own in the same event and is likely to opt for Alta Orlando, so once again we'll have the services of Tim Williams; Sax is certainly 'growing' on Tim every time they're combining, and no-one could deny he's driving our boy particularly well.
So if you want to see Sax off, we'll see you there!

(April 17)
Franco Saxon will either have one more start this campaign, or he could be spelling before the end of the week.

Sax has been nominated for the $30,000 Group 3 Rangiora Classic on Sunday, and the decision about whether he starts or not will be made tomorrow after he's worked along Woodend Beach.

I caught up with co-trainer Aimee Edmonds yesterday, who's currently in Auckland putting the finishing touches on fellow goHarness representative Harriet Of Mot for a Group 1 event this Friday night.

"The withdrawals don't close until Wednesday morning (tomorrow) so Dad and I will just see who's left in the race and make a call then," Aimee said.

"It doesn't look too rich, pretty much the same sort of horses he's been racing against lately; under the preferential system, he'll draw one as well.

"It will all depend on what Dad thinks after he works Sax on Wednesday though, if he's showing any signs of being 'flat' after last Friday night then we won't line him up - he can just go straight to the paddock."

Talking of Friday, what a terrific run by our boy Sax!

In fact, instead of words I'm going to let numbers sum up how good it was... 3:10.1 for the 2600m mobile, a mile rate of 1:57.6, the final sectionals in a sizzling 55.9 and 27.7.

Sax settled five-deep for the first lap and a bit before driver Tim Williams cleverly flushed Bushido out to get some one-one cover from about the 1100m point onwards.

Nearing the final bend, Bushido wasn't taking us up anywhere close to the leaders and in fact he was dragging Sax backwards, so Tim was forced to leave their trailing spot and set off in pursuit.

And Sax had the audacity to take ground off these much higher-assessed horses in the home straight and grab third, despite how quickly everyone was sprinting at the time. It truly was yet another top run.

Regardless of whether Sax lines up on Sunday, he deserves a break.
It's great how Craig and Aimee haven't overtaxed him by starting every week, managing to use the beachwork to help keep him physically and mentally 'fresh' throughout a campaign that's lasted four months.

He won't need long out - a month to six weeks, tops.

The last day for voting about Sax's future isn't for another 10 days yet (April 27), but I'm delighted to say we've already had enough of a response from Members to seal the decision... we'll be continuing on with our boy for another 12 months!

Thanks for having your say.

(April 10)
As you all would've seen from the automatically-generated text sent out by Harness Racing New Zeland earlier this afternoon, Franco Saxon is returning to Addington on Friday night.

He's drawn four in the eighth race on the programme, a 2600m mobile set down to begin at 8:48pm.

Once again it's a collection of different classes ranging from R65 to R90, but it's fair to say that Sax is going to enjoy not being up against three open class horses like he was last Friday.

And let's just talk about that run for a minute, because our boy went super!

Stand-in reinsman Tim Williams slotted Sax into a beautiful spot early by grabbing the one-one, but the driver ahead of them strangely snagged her horse right back to settle four-deep on the fence, leaving us without cover for the next 800 metres of the race.

Tim actually said afterwards that Sax settled well despite being parked, and ironically got 'on the nickel' a bit when John Dunn shot around the field to give him cover for the last half.

Sax battled gamely all the way to the wire up the home straight, and his performance to finish just two lengths from the dead-heating winners was a truly meritorious one - especially considering the class of horse he was up against; the mile rate (1:55.8) and the final sectionals (55.7 and 26.6).

Trust me, once Franco Saxon can slip back into a race for his own class - they aren't going to go those sort of times, and he's going to win more races!

"Definitely," co-trainer Craig Edmonds agreed.

"At home he works as good as, if not better than, Johnny's horse Alta Orlando."

That's a pretty good indicator of Sax's ability, as Alta Orlando has won eight and put over $230,000 in the bank for his owners thus far. We're not saying that Sax will do the same, but it's a good indicator of just how well he's measuring up.

Craig pointed out that there's no race for Franco Saxon at Addington the following Friday, and the only event programmed for a horse of his grade at Rangiora two days afterwards is a stand. Hence why he's going around again this week.

Our trainers intend to trial Sax from a stand leading into his next campaign (i.e. after he's had a couple more starts and gone for a spell) - but there's no need to do that nearing the end of this campaign.
As far as the voting about Franco Saxon's future is concerned, the results are resounding.

To date I've received responses from 81 of our 130 shares, and they're all a vote for 'yes' - not one of you is against the idea, which is awesome.

I still need to hear from everyone else in the syndicate who hasn't cast a vote yet though, so please remember to do this prior to the last Friday of April (the 27th).

If you know someone in 'Staxofun', get them to email me please.
(April 5)
Franco Saxon has definitely been thrown in the deep end tomorrow night.

The tremendous hat-trick of wins which Sax put together back in January is still displaying proudly in his formline, but it's worth noting that all of these victories were achieved against horses rated no higher than R65.

This week, he's taking on opposition rated between R66 and R110 and yet he's still just an R71 himself - one of them being the smart racemare Bonnie Joan, and two others boasting last-start appearances in the Easter Cup!
Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

That aside, we've got a horse who's racing on a Premier Night at Addington and this is no mean feat; it's an opportunity we should relish and appreciate for all it's worth.

The main reason why Sax is pitted against such a widespread range of classes is due to the fact that a lot of races on the programme this week are Group events or Classics for a particular age group - and all the other horses who were nominated by their trainers have been thrown into races which appear to have been 'made up' to suit.

"Yeah it is really unfair on him," co-trainer Aimee Edmonds said yesterday.

"In fact, Dad and I even thought about scratching him because of that - but we changed our minds after the way he worked this morning.

"Johnny (Dunn) sat behind him and said he felt super, so we're going to leave him in and just see how he goes.

"There's only nine in it and they're all across the front line, so hopefully he might be able to slot into a position somewhere close to the leaders and on the fence.
"He won't disgrace himself. I think we'd all be rapt if he could run top-four in that sort of field."

Once again Sax is going to be partnered by Tim Williams - but only because rival Alta Orlando is part-owned by John's wife Jenna (Aimee's sister), and Aimee joked that our regular pilot would definitely be in the bad books with his dearly beloved if he opted for Sax's sulky.

As usual the goHarness Management Team will be congregating in and around Spectator's Bar, so we look forward to seeing you there tomorrow.

Go Sax!
(March 26)
Franco Saxon might've blotted his copybook when he put a 'duck egg' into the formline on Friday night at Addington, but our trainers are urging us not to read too much into the performance.

It was just circumstantial more than anything... the speed they went, the way the race panned out, how far back Sax settled from the leaders, and the inability of any horse on the night to make ground up in the straight on a rain-affected surface.

Stand-in driver Tim Williams didn't knock our boy around once he realised rounding the home bend that they weren't going to fight out the finish, and he was still happy with how Sax felt during the run.

Actually, when you watch the replay he's actually holding his ground and finishing on as good as most of his rivals over the concluding stages - he's just doing it a wee way away from the action.

"Tim, Dad and I weren't disappointed with his effort," Aimee Edmonds confirmed this afternoon.
"And he's pulled up fine after the outing, he was really bright on Saturday morning."
Next up for Sax is a trip back to Addington on Friday-week (April 6). He dropped a couple of rating points after his 12th placing and is now down to an R71, meaning he could be pitted against rivals of similar ilk if the Club receives enough nominations.
By comparison, he was an R73 heading into last Friday night's event which was for up to R80 pacers.

(March 21)
Franco Saxon will have a different driver when he steps out at Addington on Friday night.
Regular pilot John Dunn has commitments to a long-time stable client who owns Billy Badger in the same event, so Tim Williams will take the reins on this occasion and we're losing nothing with the skills he'll bring to the table.

"These 1950 metre events are never easy when you're drawn the middle of the front line," co-trainer Aimee Edmonds said this afternoon.

"So there'll be no real plans, Tim will just see what happens at the start and let the race unfold from there.

"He's watched a few of Sax's races, and will have a chat to Johnny (Dunn) before he heads out there."
Aimee says Sax has trained well during the week, is eating properly, and his blood's perfect.
"He's where he needs to be heading into the race," she continued.

"It won't be an easy task because there's a few nice ones in it, so it'll be another good guage on where he ranks against a field of this calibre.
"He went really good the last time he raced at Addington, but that was against a field of mainly 3-year-olds... this week it's different because he's giving a bit away in terms of experience.
"Sax deserves a crack at a $20,000 race though, and he's still in the zone so hopefully his good run of form continues."

(March 12)
Franco Saxon kept his purple patch of form rolling with another fine effort for second at Ascot Park on Saturday.

Sax probably just had to do a bit too much early when left with no option but to press forward on a hot pace, as the race was 600 metres old by the time he got any cover.

And the leader Hail Christian got a fairly cheap split nearing the start of the last half, meaning he could burn the second-to-last quarter in 28.2; Sax had a lot of ground to make up once he was into the clear soon after turning for home, but he never gave up the chase and gamely closed the margin to under two lengths.

This is reflected in the fact that the overall time for their 2200m event was a very quick 2:41.6 (mile rate of 1:58.2), whereas the last 400m stanza was 'only' 29.5.

However, it was another great effort into the formline and Sax's $1960 gross earnings for finishing runner-up will more than pay for his weekend away.

Amazingly, our boy's 'CV' since he was transferred to Craig and Aimee's stable now reads eight starts for three wins, three seconds and a third - his only miss being when he was wiped out at the start of a race at Motukarara.

I'm regularly getting feedback via text, phonecalls and emails from a lot of you, outlining how much you're enjoying Sax's rediscovered vigour and the thrills he's giving you - so thanks, it means a lot to hear this.

Having arrived home safe and sound again yesterday afternoon, Aimee says Sax took the whole trip in his stride and never missed a feed, and she was delighted with how he performed.
It's been a big few days for him and the others from the stable that ventured south, so they've been enjoying one of David and Catherine Butt's lush green paddocks out at Woodend since they got back and will return to the stable tomorrow.

Craig and Aimee are deliberately not nominating Franco Saxon for any events this week, but will plan another appearance for him sometime after that.

The Easter Carnival at Addington will be upon us in a couple of weeks, and our trainers don't believe he'd be out of his depth if he has to line up in his grade on a Premier Night.

(March 7)
Franco Saxon is all set to continue his excellent formline when he accompanies a couple of stablemates on a trip to Invercargill and races this Saturday.

Co-trainer Aimee Edmonds says Sax had his final pre-trip hitout this morning, and did it very well.

"He's in a really good 'space' at the moment," Aimee said.

"We got his blood tested earlier this week and it's fine, plus he's been nice and relaxed in his training since his last start at Addington."

Aimee is taking three horses from her and Craig's stable down herself later this week - and Sax is the only boy on this 'all girls weekend', because he'll be sharing the three-horse float with two talented trotting ladies by the names of Jaw D Nancy and Harriet Of Mot.

"We'll get away in the early hours of Friday morning and should be there by about midday," she said.

"We're staying at Nathan Williamson's, who's got a beaut new place, so they'll all have a nice paddock to relax in overnight."

However Sax performs this week it'll be tinged with sadness, because goHarness lost one of our lovliest Members last Sunday with the passing of Kerri Lowe.

Kerri was a member of three syndicates (In It For Fun, Double The Fun and Staxofun) - but more importantly, she was a very dear friend of Noel and Wendy's.

No doubt there's a few of you who would've known Kerri, so I'm sure you'll join with me in sending our sincerest condolensces to her partner Brent Bisman and their extended families.

John Dunn will wear a black armband in Kerri's honour when he drives Sax on Saturday.

(February 19)

Franco Saxon, stand up and take a bow!

Because you really stepped up fella, and gave us all a tremendous thrill with your sparkling effort at Addington on Friday night.

It what was unquestionably the toughest test of Sax's career so far, he launched on a race-snatching move at about the 600m point and almost tore it off.

Considering the tempo of the race (a 1:55.7 mile rate), the quickness of the final sectionals (56.7 and 27.5), how far back Sax was when he set off on his mission, and how narrowly he went down (one length) after having to race wide around the entire last bend - it was a "wow" moment from every angle.

You may've noticed Sax get a bit 'uneven' in his gait as the favourite The Dorchester went past him and around the field with a lap to travel... John Dunn said this was Sax getting a bit keen from this moment on, and then our driver was faced with the predicament of having to make his move sooner than what he would've wanted.

John hung onto Sax as long as he could, but when Mongolian Storm moved at the 600m mark it was time for us to go as well - but instead of being able to progress three-wide we got humped out one cart width wider.

Sax hit the front turning for home, and was still holding his advantage until halfway down the straight when he got swamped by those who'd sat and done nothing three and four-deep the fence. To his utmost credit though, Sax came again and fought off the challenge of Duplicated to run a meritorious third equal.

"He's gone huge," John Dunn beamed on his return to the stabling area.

"I had to go when I did, but if I could've sat until the quarter he would've won it.

"He was probably just a bit fresh, having not raced for four weeks."
Co-trainer Craig Edmonds agreed, saying that he and Aimee were equally proud with how well our guy had performed.

"It's just a shame he wasn't a bit more settled tonight - but he's gone really good though," Craig said.

"Look at the sort of horses he's beaten home."

Catching up with Craig again earlier today, he confirmed that Franco Saxon had come through the outing in terrific order.

"Yeah, he's jumping out of his skin."

Sax's stablemate (and fellow goHarness representative) Harriet Of Mot is heading south to Invercargill for a Group 3 event on March 10, and Craig is pretty keen to throw our boy on the float with her because there's some nice stakes up for grabs on the same programme.

"We're not going to line him up anywhere this week," Craig continued, adding that they just wanted to give him an extra day or two to get over what was a quickly-run affair against quality opposition.

"But if he goes south, I'd say that he'll more than likely race again or trial somewhere beforehand."

In closing, I just want to say thankyou to all of you who've texted, phoned or emailed since Sax's amazing run on Friday - it's really neat getting your feedback, and great to know you're enjoying the ride that our boy is now taking us on.

(February 15)
Sifting through the names of Franco Saxon's opposition at Addington tomorrow night, one quickly arrives at the conclusion that it's going to be the toughest test of his career.

Included amongst them are half a dozen quality 3-year-olds, most of whom are chasing a NZ Derby berth in early April, plus a couple of 4-year-olds whose connections might be eyeing up the Taylor Mile and NZ Messenger later that same month.

Safe to say, our 5-year-old boy now finds himself in some pretty elite company - but that's just the price he's had to pay for putting together three sparkling victories and jumping up the grades.

So on paper the chances of Sax adding another 'post' to his picketfence formline are slim... but when I caught up with co-trainer Craig Edmonds at the Sales yesterday, he's not prepared to disregard the possibility altogether.
"He's pretty well," Craig said, adding that Sax is fit and it won't be a case of him needing a run tomorrow, despite it being his first appearance in nearly four weeks.

"We got a blood test done earlier in the week, and it's perfect.

"Plus he's been working alongside a couple of (driver) Johnny's good ones down the beach, horses like Alta Orlando and that - and doing it well, so I don't think he'll disgrace himself.

"From that draw he's probably going to have to go back, but as long as he's running home into the finish at the end of it we'll be happy."
Craig and Aimee know that Sax isn't just a 'grass tracker' and have actually been looking forward to getting him back onto the all-weather surface of a course like Addington - because they say our boy possesses a lot of speed, and they've always maintained that being up in the grades will actually suit him better.
Higher quality opposition result in races being run at a much quicker and more constant tempo, so when things fall into place it'll allow Sax to use what is probably his greatest asset: being driven 'cold' and having the last shot at them late.
Tread carefully if you're considering investing some of your hard-earned on Sax tomorrow though, because it's definitely a massive jump in class compared to those he's swept aside in his last three appearances and he's got a tricky draw to contend with.

Barring incidents and accidents, we're going to get a pretty good indication just how talented Sax is tomorrow anyway - you don't necessarily have to 'pay' for that privilege as well, just sit back and watch.

Regardless, it'll be great just to see him butt heads against some serious horseflesh and we'll be proud of our boy no matter what.

For those of you who are intending to be ringside for the occasion, I'll look forward to seeing you in and around Spectator's Bar.

(January 31)
Franco Saxon has just resumed jogging duties after his successful raid on Blenheim a couple of weekends ago.

Co-trainer Craig Edmonds said that Sax had a few "easy days" after he returned from his northern sojourn, which is understandable, but now he's back in the cart again.
"We just put him out into a nice paddock once he got home from Blenheim," Craig said this afternoon.

"And he looks great, too.

"He had the trip there and back and two races in between, but hasn't lost any weight at all - so it didn't worry him one bit.

"Johnny (Dunn) said he never left a feed up there, and he's been eating good ever since he came home as well."

It won't take long to bring Sax back up to racing trim again, and Craig believes our boy's next start will be sometime around the middle of February - like, the 16th at Addington for example.

"He's certainly got the ability and the speed to step up to the sort of horses he'll run into at Addington."

(January 22)

It's the only way to sum up how I think we're all feeling after yesterday's performance by Franco Saxon, when he added another 'post' to what is now a picket fence formline.
The run will come to an end eventually of course, winning streaks always do, but for now we have every right to bask in the glory of a horse who's so 'in the zone' that he actually notched up the hat-trick with a modicum of ease.
Sax showed us that there are multiple strings to his bow during the weekend's unbeaten trip to Blenheim - working hard before leading and winning on Friday, then sitting back and swooping into it late yesterday.

On both occasions he got the nod from the stopwatch-clickers too, because once again yesterday he recorded the fastest time of the six 1850m mobile events held (2:18.4) - and the quickest last quarter of the day (27.9).

One can only wonder what he actually sped over this latest final 400 metres in as well, because he was still near the tail of the field and about to be launched when the quarter-mile peg loomed.
Tributes have flowed in from a lot of you since - for John Dunn, Craig and Aimee Edmonds, Sax, and goHarness in general. Noel and I can't take any credit for the deeds of the aforementioned quartet though, we're just pleased that our selection of Sax all those months ago is now finally being vindicated.

The real heroes are our horse and its trainers and reinsman - John especially on this occasion, as we had the honour of being his sixth driving victory from only seven sulky-sits in the space of one afternoon.
Rest assured, your congratulatory expressions will be passed onto 'Team Franco Saxon'.
Our boy is on his way home to Woodend Beach as we speak, having come through his back-to-back victories in terrific order.

Sax has understandably earned himself a few days of 'R & R', so later this week Craig will throw the cart on him again and start to plan where he'll line up next.

I literally can't wait to glance at the field for his upcoming appearance and see those three little 1s next to Sax's name... hard-earned, a long time coming, and something to savour for sure!

(January 20)
Franco Saxon showed he's really 'in the groove' right now with another awesome display on the first day of the Blenheim meeting yesterday.

In what was arguably the best of his four victories to date, Sax was shepherded a bit wider than his five marble right from the get-go when our ever alert driver John Dunn spotted the horse drawn inside them gallop, and cautiously stayed out of its way.

Once the field settled into their positions our boy was in the three-wide train, so as the two carriages ahead of Sax pushed forward he was on their tails in a flash and progressed himself.

John wasn't happy with being left wide or even stopping at the parked position though, so he coaxed Sax right to the top and from there he settled beautifully.

Turning for home it soon became clear that Sax had his rivals in trouble, despite the early exertion, and none of them ever looked like getting near him as the winning post approached.

"Johnny said he was doing it easy and he actually pricked his ears on the line," co-trainer Craig Edmonds reported earlier today, highlighting a characteristic that's great to see in a horse at the finish.

"And he's come through the run great, too. Johnny said he's eaten up everything overnight and is as good as gold today."

John Dunn's the man in charge for Sax's Blenheim sojourn, as Craig is away and Aimee's in Christchurch looking after the other members of their team.

After yesterday's performance, no-one could deny our horse is in great hands - on and off the racetrack.

"So yeah, we'll press on and he'll go around again tomorrow," Craig continued.

"He's drawn the second line, so maybe Johnny will choose to drive him cold this time; we'll just have to see how the race pans out.

"It's no harder than the field he beat yesterday."

For those amongst us who like to analyse performances from a statistics point of view (and I'm one of them), there's a lot to make the mouth water...

Sax paced the fastest of six 1850m mobile events on the day - by a whopping 5.3 seconds; he recorded the only sub-2:00 mile rate on the day (1:59.6), the next quickest being 2:04.3; and then chucked in the equal second-fastest last quarter of the day when zipping home in 27.9 - only those in the Cup Prelude went a 10th of a second quicker.
And, had the audacity to do it well within himself.

In the groove? You betcha!

With no bad luck in transit tomorrow, Sax has got to be a big chance of carrying on the formline... a placing would be mint; another victory, a dream - let's just sit back and enjoy it regardless, because we know he'll try his heart out.
Go Sax! Lovin' ya work big guy.

(January 17)
Franco Saxon is in good nick as he prepares to board a transporter tomorrow and head north for the two-day Blenheim meeting this weekend.

Speaking to co-trainer Craig Edmonds this afternoon, he says all signs point to Sax acquitting himself well.
"As long as he handles the trip up there he's got to be tough doesn't he," Craig said.
Sax was given another IRAP injection into his knee last week; bloodtests done a couple of days ago have come back perfect, and Craig says he was very pleased with the way our boy felt during his final hitout down the beach this morning.

"Yeah he worked really good," he said.
"He's pretty full of himself... he's been eating well and doing everything right since his win the other day."
It's currently raining lightly in Blenheim but is supposed to clear and become fine(ish) over Friday and Saturday - with temperatures expected to be in the high 20s - so Craig hopes that the grass track they're racing on won't be too wet on either raceday.

(January 8)
A couple of emails ago, I touched on the sort of moments which make us go "hmmm" after Franco Saxon's luckless run at Motukarara on December 29.

Yesterday at Rangiora, we were almost dealt another one.

Sax was literally climbing over the horse in front of him as he sought a gap in the home straight, and even trainers Craig and Aimee Edmonds feared he'd run out of time to make up the necessary deficit once he finally did get clear.
"We were standing about a hundred and fifty metres from the winning post, and when he went past us I thought it was too late and he wouldn't have a show of getting up," Craig said earlier this afternoon.
"But then I heard the noise of the crowd, and knew he must've."
It was a truly magical and masterful piece of horsemanship by driver John Dunn, because once he'd extricated Franco Saxon off the back of the horse who was holding them up he steered our boy hard right and then hard left in the space of a couple of metres and sizzled on past the rival who stood between them and victory.

Kind of like All Black first five-eighth Beauden Barrett stepping off his left foot and then his right to slice through the Wallabies backline and dot down under the post, and didn't we friggin' love it!
Sax ate into the ground at such a rate of knots that he was actually pulling clear at the finish, winning by an ever-increasing half a length margin in 2:26.2 for the 1950m mobile contest.
He went four and half seconds quicker than any of the other four 1950m mobiles on the day, crossing the line with a fair amount of petrol left in the tank.
"He's gone a two minute mile rate and would've run a pretty quick last quarter," Craig said proudly.

"And Johnny didn't even have time to turn the stick around or pull Sax's earplugs.
"He said Sax did it easily too... he was hardly even blowing by the time he got back to the stables."
Franco Saxon has been a picture of health and well-being in the 24 hours since, proving that he's come through the outing in terrific order.
"He cleaned up everything in his bowl last night and was straight into his brekkie again this morning," Craig reported.
"We gave him today off, and I'll just take him for a quiet walk in the water tomorrow.
"A lot of horses can't wait to get out of the surf but he loves it - he'd stay in it all day if he could."
Next up for our boy is a possible trip to Blenheim for their two-day meeting next week (January 19 and 21), which will be heart-warming news to the handful of Syndicate Members who reside in the area.
Sax has jumped from R49 to an R57 rating after yesterday's victory, and Craig believes this could actually help a horse like him - especially now that we've witnessed the lethal sprint he has at his disposal.
"The races tend to be run at a much quicker tempo once you get higher in the grades, and he showed yesterday how good he is coming off another one's back.
"Johnny's been wanting to drive him like that for a while.

"He seems really happy at the moment; his feet are good and he's getting more and more relaxed about working down the beach.
"There's no reason why he couldn't keep improving."
In what was a nice gesture, former trainer Jonny Cox texted Noel soon after Sax's win yesterday to pass on his congratulations.
Jonny said he was thrilled about our boy being back in the winner's circle for the Syndicate, adding that he's glad to see him showing the potential he always knew Sax had.
(January 6)
Franco Saxon has a draw to work with tomorrow at Rangiora - well, two of them actually.

Sax is eligible for (and has been entered in) dual 1950m mobile events on the programme... race eight, where he's drawn two, and the ninth in which he's landed the marble of one.
He's actually the 'second emergency' for the latter race, meaning that he needs two of his rivals to be scratched before he'd be able to regain the field.
It's the weaker of the two races as well, which is reflected in the form of the horses entered, and under the conditions of race nine he's been placed on the ballot due to being one of the highest-assessed horses in it.

Speaking to co-trainer Craig Edmonds yesterday, he indicated that Sax is likely to line up in race eight anyway (and therefor be scratched out of race nine). On paper the eighth is a tougher ask, but being positioned one spot further away from the inside at the start does have its appeal.

"He's got gate speed but starting from one - he could get crossed early and end up back on the fence," Craig said, adding that being hemmed in doesn't really suit our boy.

"So from the two-hole Johnny (Dunn) has more options, he doesn't have to hunt him out at the start to try and hold their place."
Craig's right. Drawing one may sound good, but unless a horse has got blazing gate speed (which Sax hasn't) then it can actually be a curse.
And when we do the math: less exertion used at the start, equals more petrol left in the tank for the business end.
Sax is a healthy and happy boy heading into tomorrow, and everyone in the camp is seeing those signs.
"Johnny worked him earlier in the week when I was down south with Harriet Of Mot, and said he trained really well," Craig said.
"And Sax has had a good few days since, too.

"As long as he doesn't get any bad luck like he did at Motukarara, I'd expect him to be in the finish again."
Noel and Wendy will be oncourse to join those of you who also going tomorrow, and I'll be cheering from afar. There's no cover charge to get in the gate, either.

(December 30)
Life is full of those moments which make you go "hmmm... bugger".

Yesterday at Motukarara, we were dealt one of those moments.

Poor ol' Franco Saxon's bid for glory in the last race on the programme was over just as it began... a split second after John Dunn had extricated him off the fence to get into the running line, the horse they were pulling off the back of galloped and shifted out.
It was just enough sideways movement to ensure its sulky wheel caught Sax's as he was going past, and once locked at speed these discs hardly ever come unstuck.
Race over.
As disappointing as things turned out yesterday, the good news is that Sax has come through the ordeal totally unscathed. Things could've been a whole lot worse, so we've got something to be thankful for.
"Yeah he's fine," was the word from co-trainer Craig Edmonds earlier this afternoon.
"He never even had a race of course, but he's come home and eaten up his tea and is as good as gold.
"It's a shame really, because he'd worked really well during the week and would've run in the money again; Johnny was going to drive him cold."
Craig and Aimee haven't decided where Sax might go next, but the Rangiora meeting tomorrow-week (January 7) has been pencilled in and I'll keep you informed.
(December 22)
Franco Saxon will step out next at Motuakrara on Friday, December 29.

Our boy has continued to train on well since the latest of his back-to-back seconds at Rangiora last Sunday.

"Yeah he's as good as gold," co-trainer Craig Edmonds said this afternoon.

"He's eating right, and seems bright."

Craig's been experimenting with a boring pole on Sax during training, in an attempt to curb his tendencies to run out on occasions.

Our boy isn't entirely happy with it at the moment, but is warming to the idea all the time and as Craig says - "he'll just have to get used to it".
Noel, Wendy and I would like to wish all our goHarness Syndicate Members a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Eat lots, drink little (haha), and please keep your speed down on the roads if you're travelling anywhere.

We'll see you all again real soon!
(December 19)
At Rangiora last Sunday, Franco Saxon did something that he's only ever done once before in his 27-start career.
He backed up, following up one meritorious performance with another.
Sax's second second-placing in a row was a beauty, because although lost for early gate speed he managed to hunt up enough to settle three-deep briefly before John Dunn was off and around to the lead.
From there he had company the entire trip - annoyed by a horse who ended up finishing more than eight lengths behind him, by the way - and once he'd shaken off the attention of Glenisthebettor swinging for home he had one danger left, the horse he'd given a cushy run to in the trail for most of the 1950m event.
Sax only succumbed late to Kiel, doing down by a head. And to his credit our boy recorded the equal-fastest time of any of the six races run over this distance on the day - and threw in a zippy 27.7 last quarter to boot, which is pretty good on the grass.
You have to go back 12 months to find the last time that Franco Saxon put two consecutive placings together, when he won at Forbury Park on November 30 and backed it up with a third at Addington on December 16.
This proves that he's in a great place now, mentally and physically. Craig and Aimee Edmonds are still tweaking with the odd thing here and there, but they've pretty much found the keys to his big engine and his results are starting to speak for themselves.
He's fought like a tiger in both his appearances from the new stable and gone down by the narrowest of margins both times, suggesting that win number three for our boy is probably just around the corner.
Ironically it's more likely to happen when we get a bad draw, because that's when we'll see him driven 'cold' like he was in his sparkling recent trial victory.
John Dunn had to use the inside marble that was presented to Sax on Sunday and once again put him in the race though, especially as it was over the shorter distance.
He too was rapt with how Sax acquitted himself, and feels that the best is yet to come.

"I think he'll be even better once we get him back on the grit (all-weather track) and over a longer trip - that's when you'll get to see his speed," John said, reiterating that he's looking forward to being able to drive Sax with a sit.
Our pacer has come through Sunday's run in terrific order. Where he'll head next hasn't been decided yet, but there are countless options in and around Canterbury over the Christmas/New Year period so it won't be hard to find races for him.
As soon as I know, so will you.

(December 15)
Franco Saxon has a marble to work with at Rangiora on Sunday.

He's drawn 'the ace' in race three on the programme, which more or less puts paid to any plans of driving him cold. It does give John Dunn a couple of options though, as the likes of Jay FM and Toughlittlerooster both leave the mobile quickly so there could be a trailing spot presented to Sax if our driver wants to take it.

"He's got enough speed to get out so it should be alright," co-trainer Craig Edmonds said yesterday.

"He's come through his Motukarara run well, and worked real good on Wednesday.

"He'll just have another jog along the beach on Saturday morning, and that should see him pretty right for the next day."

The Rangiora meeting is another of these 'Christmas at the Races' ones, meaning there'll be a $10 charge to get in the gate. However, once again I've been in touch with the Club and been sent an email from them which gets us owners in for nothing.

So if you're thinking of heading out there on Sunday, just click reply to this email and let me know and I'll forward the Club's email to you to print off and take with you.
See you there, and go Sax!

(December 11)
What a terrific run by Franco Saxon yesterday!

Having his first raceday start in six weeks and his first go on a grass track, Sax got left three wide in the open for the last 1000 metres of his resumption but never threw in the towel, going down fighting to be beaten a neck.

John Dunn cleverly extricated Sax off a tight spot four-back on the fence down the back straight, and when he joined the three-wide train shortly afterwards he wouldn't have predicted that they'd lose their cover as quick as they did.

Franco Saxon relaxed out there though, so John didn't worry about using any extra petrol to scoot forward to the parked position. And Sax later fought off all the challenges bar one - that of Selena Franco's, who'd enjoyed a cushy run on the fence for most of the event before sliding into Sax's slipstream from the home turn and popping off his back late.

Swap the runs around, and the result would've gone in our favour by a wider margin.

"Really happy - he's gone great," John said on his return to the stabling area.

"He actually came again at the finish, trying to fight that other horse off."

John had originally intended to drive Sax 'cold' yesterday, but when the pace was a dawdle he had no option but to get trucking because he didn't want to be giving the leaders too much of a headstart.

Considering the extra ground he must've covered as the final 800 metres sped by in 58.9, it was a meritorious performance whichever way you look at it.

Sax showed how lethal he is (when saved for the last run) during his trial win, so he's probably going to be driven that way in future if circumstances permit.

Co-trainer Craig Edmonds rang this afternoon to report that Franco Saxon has come through the outing in grand order.

"He licked the bowl clean last night and seems pretty happy this morning," Craig said.

"He's having today off, but tomorrow I'll take him for a bowl along the beach and walk him in the water.

"He'll improve with yesterday's run too, so we won't have to do too much with him before his next race."

Craig's going to nominate Franco Saxon for both the Addington meeting this Saturday (December 16) and Rangiora grass track fixture the following day (December 17), and will make a decision about which one we're targeting after he sees the fields.

(December 8)

If Franco Saxon's trial victory at Rangiora nine days ago is anything to go by, we have every right to harbour a fair amount of confidence heading into his resumption from the Craig and Aimee Edmonds stable at Motukarara this Sunday.

In case you haven't caught the replay of Sax's performance, here's a link to it...

Unfortunately I haven't been able to catch up with Craig today for an update. However, when I spoke to him on Monday this week he reported that Sax had trained on well since his trial and "worked great" along the beach earlier that morning.

Rest assured, if anything had gone awry with our boy in the meantime, I would've heard about it.

For those of you who are intending to be there, I'll see you on Sunday - and go Sax!!!
(November 30)
Absolutely astounded!
For me and the handful of Syndicate Members who ventured out to Rangiora yesterday afternoon to watch Franco Saxon's trial, these were the sort of emotions we were left with afterwards.

John Dunn took Sax back from his wide draw in the 2000m mobile event, settling near the tail of the eight-horse field, and they were still there and spotting the leaders some 10 lengths passing the 800m mark.

A trio of their rivals had put a bit of a break on the field nearing the home bend, and when John eased our pacer into the running line to set off after them I thought I'd be happy just to see Sax take some ground off them and run home nicely into about fourth or fifth.

Well, Sax had other ideas.

He ate into the deficit with ease, looming up to the leaders halfway down the straight and then sailing on by. He may've only scored by a neck, but it's the way Sax did it and what John didn't do that franked it as a performance of real class.

Without his earplugs pulled, and John doing little more than just chirping at him as he ran the reins over his rump, Franco Saxon won his trial 2:30 flat. Next came the announcement of the final sectionals - 57 and 27.6 - but with where Sax had come from at the 800m, he just had to have zipped home a heck of a lot quicker.
And a bloodstock agent sitting nearby with stopwatch in hand confirmed it with a flabbergasted look on his face... he'd timed Sax to run his final quarters in 27 and 27.6, combining for a sensational last half of 54.6.
Now, horses just don't do that on a track like Rangiora; not with the earplugs still intact, and their drivers not asking them for a supreme effort.
I'm guilty of getting a tad over-enthusiastic about our syndicate horses sometimes, so I threw a question at John upon his return, asking him if we were allowed to be a wee bit excited about this?
"Hell yeah - he went awesome," came the reply.
"He's just got so much speed," John added, indicating that 'cold' might be the way to drive Sax for the time being because he reckons it'll help him get some confidence back.
Agreeing with him about the speed factor, I blurted out the sizzling last half which Sax had recorded and with a wry smile John looked at me and said "I might've even timed him to go a bit quicker than that", referring to the stopwatch he'd carried himself.
Wow. It was all quite surreal really, and I was just so thrilled about seeing the sort of ability that we've always thought Sax possessed.
Co-trainer Craig Edmonds was also rapt but pretty much took it in his stride, halfpie expecting Sax to show us something like that because "he'd been working really good at home".

Sax is currently on an R49 rating so Craig says there's a "perfect" race coming up for him at Motukarara on December 10 - a 2000m mobile for 'up to R50' pacers.

Our great-looking boy was getting another visit from the Vet today, for a hock injection and another vial of the IRAP plasma, so Craig even implied that he'd improve off the back of yesterday's hitout.
Sax won't step out in public again between now and Sunday week, they'll just keep him ticking over at home in the meantime.
With a current raceday formline of '5400', something tells me that (barring bad luck) we're about to turn that right around.
Welcome back, Sax.
(November 28)
Great news - Franco Saxon will make his first public appearance from the stable of Craig and Aimee Edmonds when he steps out at tomorrow's Rangiora Trials.

He's in Heat 10 on the programme, a 2000m mobile which is scheduled to kick off at 1:15pm.

With the help of his son-in-law John Dunn, Craig has been putting quite a bit of time into Sax since he arrived out at Woodend Beach. They've been dealing with such issues as Sax's steering and his tendency to get a bit keen at times, but Craig says they're definitely winning the battle.

"He's working really well and I'm pretty happy with him," he said this afternoon.

"If horses tend to hang or 'lug in' during a race then they'll usually also show signs of it when training along the beach - even though we're going in a straight line.

"But he's been fine in that respect, driving and steering quite nicely.
"Plus he's eating good too, he's very well within himself."

Depending on how he performs tomorrow, Sax could resume at the Akaroa Trotting Club's meeting at Motukarara on Sunday-week (Dec 10).

Craig says he's pretty much "ready to go", so this is looking likely.
(November 20)
Franco Saxon is adapting well to life out at Woodend.
New trainers Craig and Aimee Edmonds have just been working Sax up and down the beach mostly, helping him settle in to his new environment, and Craig says he should be ready to go to a trial or workout somewhere next week.

"He can get a wee bit keen at times," Craig said.
"Like, he'll be fine and then all of a sudden he'll 'switch on' and start pulling. So we're experimenting with a couple of different bits (in Sax's mouth).

"He's a nice enough horse though and he runs along alright, plus he's eating good and is pretty happy about everything."
It's not going to be a hard job to place him once he's ready to resume either, because Craig says there's a heap of racing coming up for a horse of his grade between now and Christmas and beyond.

(November 6)
No need to sugar-coat it, Franco Saxon went a 'shocker' in his resumption at Timaru on Saturday.
By his own standards - not to mention Jonny Cox's opinion of how well Sax was feeling and training leading into the weekend - this latest raceday appearance by our boy was one of his worst performances yet.
Understandably, such a below-par run was totally unexpected and has left us all feeling a little glum; our trainer/driver included.
"I didn't see that coming," a dejected Jonny said today.

"He felt absolutely fine in the prelim and was nice and relaxed when we warmed up. There's always a bit more pressure on racedays because they're going a lot faster than what they do at the trials, but I thought he'd go a lot better than that.
"I suppose it didn't really help matters being trapped on the fence, because he doesn't really like being down there anyway - but he got his head around and hung most of the way, and when it came time to sprint there was just nothing there.

"The only thing I can put it down to is that perhaps his knee is troubling him more than we thought."
Quite a few conversations between goHarness Management and Jonny have taken place in the interim, and it's been decided to transfer Franco Saxon to the beach-training operation of father/daughter duo Craig and Aimee Edmonds out at Woodend.

I need to point out that giving Sax to someone who trains along the beach was entirely Jonny's suggestion, not the other way around - and as with all the trainers employed by goHarness, we support his decisions one hundred percent.
It was a hard call for him to make, but one which we all feel is for the best and I'm sure you'll join with me in thanking Jonny for the enjoyment he's given us while Sax has been in his care.
"I've said all along that I just want what's best for Sax," Jonny continued.
"And I think this is it. He's got the potential to win more races, but I just can't give him what he now needs."
What Jonny means is that with him about to enter into a training partnership with Tim Butt from the start of December, life's about to get a whole lot busier for him and he just woudn't have the time to be trekking out to the beach to work Sax every other day.
So it makes sense to place Sax with someone who's got sand 'n surf at their back doorstep, 24/7. Noel and I sat down and discussed the half a dozen Canterbury stables which were an option, and Craig and Aimee got the nod due to the numerous boxes they tick.
These include... they already train another goHarness horse (Harriet Of Mot) and have extensive experience in the IRAP treatment which Sax recently embarked on; their operation being smaller numbers-wise, and hence they can offer far more 'one on one' attention than what horses are likely to get in a bigger barn; them having a swimming pool at their disposal every day of the week; Craig himself also being a highly-skilled blacksmith, always helpful when you've got a horse with leg issues; plus the feminine touch which Aimee brings to the table is something that I think Sax will respond well to too.
Plenty of racehorses regain lost form after switching to a beach-training environment, a big part of the transformation being due to them all of a sudden having a fresh outlook on life in general.
In saying that, this may not turn out to be the 'magic answer' we're looking for. But we've got to try something, because the Staxofun Syndicate has only got about six months left to run and we need to give Sax every possible chance of producing what we know he's capable of.
The switchover will happen this Wednesday, as Jonny is bringing Sax to the Addington Cup Trials and Aimee will be taking our boy home with her afterwards.
I'll send out an update later in the week about how he's settled into his new environment, and where he's likely to line up next.

(November 2)
Franco Saxon topped off his preparation for Saturday's resumption at Timaru with a private hitout around Tim Butt's track this morning.

Nestled in behind a 'GP' (galloping pacemaker) until asked to stretch out over the last furlong, Sax worked over a mile and a half in 3:20 and covered his final sectionals in 62 and 30.
"A nice easy run without being too strenuous," Jonny Cox told me, adding that he was happy with how Sax felt.

"And one which should see us right for Saturday."

Next I asked Jonny about our draw of two on the second line in his upcoming 2600m mobile, and he believes it could've been worse.

"You can't really do much from there except follow out the one in front of us and see where we end up.

"At least we're off the fence and not drawn the carpark!"

So in what will be his first start for more than two months, is it a winnable race for Sax?

"For sure," Jonny replied, cautioning that there's still the 'luck' variable to add into the equation.

"He's well, he's done the miles at home and his knee seems good; it'd be nice if he makes his way into the finish.

"He just lacks the race fitness of the others - there's an old saying that you can't beat a race just to top a horse off at the start of a new campaign, and it's true.

"Like, if he got to the hundred metre mark and started peaking on his run, it wouldn't surprise me.

"I expect him to go a good race though."

Yours truly has a prior engagement for this Saturday, so those of you intending to be part of the oncourse Cheer Squad at Washdyke will be joined by Noel and Wendy.

Go Sax!

(October 25)
I can't actually tell you where Franco Saxon finished in his trial at Rangiora today, but what I do know for a fact is that he was on the leader's back and travelling!
Jonny Cox rang me on the way home from the course, saying he was rapt with Sax's run. He thinks the horse he was following ran about third or fourth, so we'll get tributed with a place or two further back from that once the results get published on HRNZ's website.

"He's definitely on the improve," Jonny enthused.

It was an unpredicted turn of events that led to Sax even being in the trail. Jonny let him roll forward under his own steam as the mobile pulled away, and when none of their rivals showed any vigour early he was able to slot our boy straight into the trail virtually from the outset.
"I didn't think he'd be down on the inside so I had a reinpricker on that side of him today," Jonny explained.
"And he runs away from the pricker of course, so for that reason I didn't want to go against that and push him into the passing lane near the finish.
"So we just sat on the leader's back, and I still had a good handful of him at the finish; I timed him to run his last quarter in 28 - and he felt great doing it too!
"It was the ideal sort of trial, really - a nice run without being a gutbuster. He had a bit of a blow afterwards, but then recovered quickly."
Jonny was also pleased with some of the other signs that Sax showed him today.
"He actually dropped the bit and relaxed, like a normal racehorse for a change.
"I think he's starting to grow up, and realising that he doesn't have to go out there and be a d..k (pull fiercely) most of the time.
"And I'm guessing that's got something to do with him not feeling as much pain in his knee anymore."
Jonny has now firmly pencilled in a raceday resumption for Sax at Timaru on Saturday, November 4.
It's the day after a night meeting at Addington - "where most of the good ones will line up" - and Jonny doesn't think Sax needs another public appearance in the interim.
"I'll just take him round to Tim's (Tim Butt's stable) for a decent hitout before then, and we should be pretty right.
"I think we're definitely on the right track with him; he's still a bit big and burly but will trim up a bit more after today.
"And he might still be a bit fresh heading into his race at Timaru, but that won't hurt him."
(October 24)
Franco Saxon is having another run tomorrow, this time at the Rangiora Trials.

He's in Heat 11 which is scheduled to kick off at 1:00pm, a mobile 2000m event where he'll start from eight at the barrier.

Jonny Cox reports that Sax "seems pretty good" since his untaxing run at Motukarara a week ago.

"He's still full of himself so that's always a good sign," Jonny said this afternoon, adding that Sax has trimmed up a tad but there's more chiselling to do yet.

Hence, the plan is to give our pacer a more solid hitout tomorrow. Sax will have to go back from that wide draw at the start, but after that Jonny says he'll let the speed of the race dictate his next moves.
"If it's a nice even tempo then I'll just sit back and let him run home again, but if they walk then I'll be up and around them.

"I'd like him to have some sort of decent run tomorrow - they'll go quicker than the mile rate at Motukarara (2:04.9), I know that."
I can't be ringside for Sax's appearance, but as soon as I've spoken to Jonny afterwards I'll be sure to let you know how our horse went.
(October 17)
Jonny Cox was "more than happy" with Franco Saxon's run for third at the Motukarara Trials earlier this afternoon.

Drawn the widest of six runners in his 2200m mobile event, Sax was asked by Jonny to go back at the start and sit last - which he did so without hassle. Jonny says a couple of their rivals started to tire nearing the 800m point, so he came out and around them and then just let our boy run home under his own steam after that.

"The first three got away on us a bit, but in the end we were probably only four or five lengths from the winner - he made up a lot of ground on them from the half and even passed one," Jonny said.

"They went about 2:50 overall, and I timed him to run his last 800 in about 57.8; that's a pretty good run around Mot.

"And I was really happy with him too, because he was on the job but still controllable.

"At times in the past when he's been a bit fresh going into a trial, he's sort of wanted to charge the gate. But today he was good, not silly or an idiot at all."
Sax had a good blow afterwards too, as anticipated.

"It was the sort of run he needed," Jonny continued.

"He was also the last of the three that I had in today too though - and by the time I'd washed him down, scraped off the excess water and loaded him onto the float with the others, he'd already recovered.
"Hopefully he'll lose a bit of condition from the outing, and we'll go again next week."
The plan is to take Sax to Rangiora on Wednesday (October 25), and Jonny says he might even give him another trial after that before going back to the races - all of which will be decided after his next run.
"I think today proved that he still wants to be out there and doing it," our trainer/driver said.
"With what he's been through lately, no-one could begrudge him being a bit sour on things - but he's not, by any means.

"So, hopefully he's back.

"What I want is for him to be competitive again... this Syndicate's only got another seven or eight months left, so my goal is to get him to finish that time off with some consistency in his racing."
(October 16)
Franco Saxon is finally going to get the chance to have an outing away from home tomorrow.

He's heading off to the Motukarara Trials, where he'll line up in a 2200m mobile which is scheduled to start at 12:15pm.

Jonny Cox has chosen tomorrow's venue in preference to Ashburton (or Rangiora on Wednesday) because it's an official Trial Meeting as opposed to just workouts; they don't hold qualifying trials at the latter, and Jonny's also training a filly called Burnindownthehouse that he's hoping to qualify.

So it made sense to take her, Sax and their stablemate It's All Over Now to the same course on the same day rather than split them up across the week.
Mindful that you can only do so much with a horse at home, Jonny says it's a shame Sax missed a run last week due to the cancellations because he would've been that little bit more forward heading into tomorrow.

"He's still a bit fat," Jonny said.

"But he looks great, so I'm happy enough with him in that respect.

"He's just going to take a couple of outings to get back into racing trim, that's all."
I can't make it out to Motukarara tomorrow, but I'll be sure to let you know Jonny's thoughts about Sax's performance as soon as I hear from him afterwards.
(October 10)
Spring huh? Yeah right!

Sounds like the script from a Tui beer commercial, doesn't it. Nevertheless, Canterbury's weather has certainly played a leading role in the careers of locally-trained horses this week.

I can't recall many cancellations of October trial meetings over the years - but for the second time in the space of three days, officials have had to pull the plug yet again.
On Monday it was Addington, and today it's Rangiora, meaning that Franco Saxon won't be making a public appearance this afternoon as expected.
Jonny Cox says Sax will either line up at the Ashburton Workouts next Tuesday (Oct 17) or at Rangiora 24 hours later, and as soon as it's been confirmed I'll let you all know.
Our boy is well and, like the rest of us up and down the country, probably a bit peeved off with Mother Nature just at the moment.
Someone should send her a calendar to remind her what month it is.
(October 5)
Jonny Cox knows he's winning the battle with Franco Saxon because he can see it. Literally.

In addition to Sax being noticeably happier about life in general, Jonny says our boy has also packed on a few kilos lately - in fact, he's put Sax on a diet and stepped up his training regime to get him back to racing trim again.
"Yeah he's a little bit fat to be honest - he's done pretty well," Jonny said this afternoon.
"I'm not panicking about it though; I'd rather him be like that than have to try and put weight on him, because at least we've got something to work with.
"It's a sign that he's obviously healthy and isn't feeling as much pain any more."
Sax got given his second IRAP injection on Monday - this was supposed to happen last Thursday, but vets get even busier in Spring time with mares needing to be served and newborns popping up all over the place, and unfortunately Sam (Taylor) didn't have the chance to visit Sax again until earlier this week.
No biggie though; Jonny's been keeping Sax ticking over at home while he's been undergoing his IRAP treament, and he'll take the first steps towards a racetrack return by lining up at the Addington Trials next Monday (October 9).
"He'll need the hitout, so I'll just follow them around and let him run home at the finish.

"His work's been good though, he's done all I've asked him to in training.
"He's just a bit big and burly at the moment, that's all. He's a lot rounder than normal, and probably carrying more weight than he ever has.

"So he'll need a couple of trials or workouts to get back to race condition, but it won't take long; we'll know more after Monday," Jonny said.
(September 20)
Franco Saxon has started to turn the corner.

I spoke to Jonny Cox this morning, and he reports that Sax has been "a different horse" since treatment on his sore knee began.

Given a cortisone injection just to numb any pain when vet Sam Taylor first visited a couple of Fridays ago, Sax had his first course of IRAP Therapy last week and is being administered a second vial tomorrow - the initial double dose being the recommended method of 'kick starting' the healing process.
"He seems a lot happier," Jonny said.

"And he even looks better, his coat's getting its shine back. It's a bit like humans I suppose - when the pain goes away, you start to feel a whole lot better about life in general.

"So whatever we're doing is definitely working; I jogged him on the lead yesterday and he was pretty full of himself again."
From here the plan is "a decent canter" on Saturday and then Jonny will start to turn up the wick from next week onwards. Sax won't have lost a heck of a lot of fitness during his current limbo period, but our trainer still intends to line him up at the trials or workouts somewhere first before we go back to the races.

At a pinch, we're talking a resumption sometime early in October.
The other breaking news over the last few days of course has been the announcement that Jonny's entering into a training partnership with Tim Butt, which comes into effect from December 1.
It'll see Jonny give up his morning shifts at Mark Purdon's and Natalie Rasmussen's All Star Stables, and Sax and the rest of Jonny's seven or eight horses will eventually move from their current lodgings at Yaldy Farm to Tim's stables in Newtons Road, the same property where Spreydon Lodge also runs their operation from.

"The news broke pretty quick, but the decision wasn't made without Kim and I spending more than a month thinking about it and going backwards and forwards with all sorts of questions," Jonny says.
"At the end of the day it's too good an opportunity to turn down, plus it's going to be nothing but positive for me and my race team - I wouldn't be doing it otherwise."

No disrespect to where he's training from at the moment, but Jonny will have improved (and more) facilities at his fingertips once he makes the move.
"There's better boxes and paddocks, more room overall, but the tracks are the biggest thing... there's a jog track and a fast-work track on the property, and they've got a lot more sand on them so it'll mean less jarring on Sax's knee.

"And they're putting in a water-walker too, which will be ideal for a horse like him.
"My horses will still get the best of treatment, and probably even more 'TLC' than before because there'll be me, Kim and a couple of other staff in the mornings."
I can vouch for that too, because you've only got to see the way Kim acts around (and towards) Sax on racenight to know that she loves our boy to bits!
The other advantage of Jonny relinquishing his employment at All Stars Stables is the fact that Sax (and the rest of his soon-to-be-combined team) will get worked in the mornings, rather than in the afternoon like he is at the moment.
With the warmer weather approaching, it'll be much nicer for the horses to be all 'done and dusted' before lunchtime instead of being put through their regimes when temperatures are at their fiercest.
(September 12)
Franco Saxon is about to start treatment for an arthritic-type condition in his left knee.
I apologise that you've been left wondering what's happening with Sax after my last email was 10 days ago, but Jonny Cox's vet Dr Sam Taylor (of the Rangiora Vet Centre) didn't have an opportunity to examine our horse until last Friday - and there's been plenty of discussions between them, Noel and I in the interim as we decided upon the best way to tackle Sax's complaint.
The need to give Sax a thorough 'going over' came about after a lacklustre performance from him at Addington on September 1, when Jonny said that even in their prelim that night our boy felt "lethargic, and not interested".
X-rays have revealed that he's got a small amount of tiny micro-fractures in his knee, which is akin to arthritis; undetectable in the pre-purchase Vet Check we carried out in 2016, it's the sort of condition which horses are prone to developing as they get older - and Sax even moreso in a way, because the way his 'action' is he hits the ground pretty hard with his front feet.
It's not all doom and gloom though, and as soon as possible this week Sax will undergo a course of IRAP Therapy.

"Horses are notorious for having a poor blood supply in and around their joints and bones," Sam explained.
"And when this sort of thing happens, the bones in the knee harden and become more calcified."

IRAP Therapy involves extracting blood from a horse, treating it so that the plasma's healing qualities are concentrated and multiplied by about a thousand, and then re-injecting it back into the afflicted area.

As opposed to cortisone injections which only numb the pain and mask the problem, IRAP assits a horse's own immune system to go to work from the inside out.
"IRAP is kind of like a cheaper version of stemcell treatment, which will be a thing of the future but is way too expensive at this stage, and it helps cartilage regrow around the area," Sam added.
Sax doesn't have to take time off while he's treated either. He spent most of last week in the paddock while Jonny waited for the vet to visit, but he'll resume jogging as soon as he's started his treatment and then Jonny will step things up a notch next week.

The plan is to give Sax a trial or workout somewhere the following week, just to get a line on where he's at, and then he can go back to the races.
In lieu of these developments, Jonny is going to alter Sax's training programme from here on in as well. There's a pool located at Yaldy Farm where he trains from, so once the temperatures start to warm up he'll gradually increase Sax's time in the water at the same rate as he gives him less and less trackwork.
Swimming is a tremendous cardio workout for horses, and puts virtually no pressure whatsoever on their joints. Ideally, Sax won't need to go near a track between races.
Ironically, the discovery of Sax's condition in his knee goes a long way towards explaining something which has bugged both Jonny and I for most of this year.
Sax has predominantly gone great fresh-up but then seemed to 'plateau' afterwards, totally bucking the trend of horses almost always improving with each additional run of a campaign.
So in a way it sort of makes sense why he didn't - because he was probably experiencing an increase in discomfort as each raceday came and went. We're going to try and turn all that around now though.
Another advantage of IRAP is that the procedure produces half a dozen vials of 'reinforced' blood - so we'll be able to inject his knee every month or so, or whenever Jonny senses that the problem's starting to niggle away at Sax again.
Personally I'm very impressed with Sam's attitude towards our horse too; vet work isn't just a job for him, it's a passion and he's totally dedicated to the challenge that lies ahead.
"Yeah I'm quite excited about giving Franco Saxon the treatment, and I'd like to think we'll see an improvement in his form as a result," Sam said.

(September 2)
Poor ol' Franco Saxon just can't seem to catch a break lately, because for the second time in as many starts this campaign he was left parked a long way from home again at Addington last night.
Due to circumstances which are no driver's fault, this horrible 'p' word has made regular appearances amongst the descriptions of Sax's runs throughout his 24-start career to date.

And more often than not, it puts paid to any horse's chances of running in the money - no matter who you are. There's a reason why commentators call it the "death seat".
Granted, Sax sat parked yet still won on debut but you can get away with it in the maiden grades; once you're up against horses of equal ability, the sort of trip you receive makes all the difference.
For a while there last night it looked like our boy was actually going to land a sweet ride in the one-one for a change, because after being caught wide early he and Jonny Cox mooched forward to be outside the leader and they'd been followed around in every step by Nigel McGrath on My Wee Man.
Sax crossed down to parked, My Wee Man went ahead of him to give him cover, but then Matt Anderson driving the favourite Alta Shelby in front decided to surrender the lead. This left us in the dreaded position once again, and with My Wee Man having been the last carriage on the three-wide train there was no help in sight.
Like most of us, I clung onto a glimmer of hope that Sax could still run a place, as he'd finished fourth after sitting parked eight days earlier and would've improved with that outing under his belt.
Soon after swinging for home though, it was obvious our boy wasn't going to fight out the finish so Jonny just let him coast home under his own steam.

"Nah, not that happy with him to be honest," our trainer/driver said as he and Sax returned to the stabling area. 
"He was pretty scratchy in the warm-up before the race, and even then I could sense that something wasn't quite right with him.

"It might be his feet again, so he won't be going to Forbury and I'll get them checked out this week."
What Jonny meant is that he suspects Sax could be suffering from corns again, like he has on a couple of occasions in the past.

You cut the little blighters out, give the hoof a chance to grow back again and then throw another set of shoes on a horse once their feet are back to normal - but corns can come back without warning too, and because the affected area is covered (by the shoe) and out of sight it's almost impossible to know they're there until your horse starts to show some discomfort.
The change in demeanour can virtually happen overnight as well - one day your horse will be as happy as Larry, and then 24 hours later they've got something niggling away at them at the end of their legs. Heck, things would be a whole lot easier if horses could talk!
Jonny will get his farrier to look at Sax as soon as possible, and I'll let you all know what we find.

(August 30)
Don't be confused about the indication that Franco Saxon is about to have a couple of starts in the space of as many days.

He's definitely lining up in race 10 at Addington this Friday night, and his inclusion in the fields for Forbury on Sunday is only to give trainer Jonny Cox a 'back up plan' just in case anything untoward happens 48 hours earlier.
Jonny and his girlfriend Kim Butt have been holidaying in Australia all week, having left the day after Sax's resumption last Thursday to take in all the action of Breeders Crown Day and then staying on to spend a bit of time with Kim's father Anthony.
They fly back into New Zealand tomorrow night, well in time for Jonny to reunite with Sax for his race the following day.
The man who was left with the responsibility of overseeing Sax's training regime for a few days during Jonny's absence is his good mate Jesse Alford, a guy I know well myself and can speak very highly of.

Although he's no relation to Victorian trainer/driver Chris Alford whose name is synonymous with the industry across the Tasman, Jesse has been involved in harness racing for most of his life. Having done stints in various stables including Peter Robertson's, Jesse has been on the employee list at Jonny's for most of 2017 and as a result he knows Sax pretty well.

He's also a budding junior driver who was recently granted a licence to drive at the trials. It goes without saying that he knows his stuff, so Sax has been in good hands while the boss has been away on a brief break.
"Yeah Jesse's good," Jonny agreed.
"I left him with a work list for the half a dozen horses I've got at home at the moment, and he's the sort of guy who would've followed it exactly.
"He can judge pace and knows how to carry a watch, so the horses will have been worked as fast or as slow as I wanted them to be."
Jonny's kept in regular contact with his right-hand man while he's been overseas, and when I caught up with him this afternoon he reported that our pacer is in fine fettle.
"Sax came through his run last week really well, and Jesse says he's fair bouncing around the paddock.
"He would've taken some natural improvement out of the race, and having drawn three this week it does give us a better starting position to work with.
"I don't quite know if the lead will be there for him, because the horse drawn one (Gunpowder) likes to race on the pace, but at least we might be able to get handy without using as much petrol early - and leave something in the tank for the last 400 metres."
For those of you who are intending to be there to cheer Sax on this week, I'll look forward to catching up with you in and around Spectator's.
(August 25)
Franco Saxon put in a great run to finish fourth at Addington last night.

Punching through from his second-line draw at the start, Sax ended up four-back on the outer before Jonny Cox asked him to move up outside the leader with a lap to travel.

Our boy settled well in the position and then started to challenge the leader (and eventual winner) turning for home; looking like he was going secure third in the run to the line, Sax just came to the end of it 100 metres out but fought gamely to hold fourth all the same.

I applauded Jonny for seizing the initiative when he did, because it was a slow pace being set and hence the quickest part of the event was the last quarter... completed in 27.6, nothing from further back could take any ground off the front runners - if Jonny had stayed where he was a lap out, Sax's earnings wouldn't have been boosted by $450.

This was highlighted by the fact that the first four horses at the head of the field on the home bend ran first, second, third and fourth.
Sax was in good nick after the race, his first for nearly two months, and has come through it in grand fashion today. Jonny was happy with his effort as well, and says he'll naturally improve with the outing under his belt.
There's a couple of races to choose from at Addington a week tonight (September 1), and our trainer/driver says that where he intends to line up Sax next.
(August 22)
Fitness-wise, Franco Saxon is right where Jonny Cox wants him in the lead-up to his resumption at Addington this Thursday night.

Jonny was glad he opted to bypass going anywhere with Sax this week, because our boy didn't need another trial or workout at the same tempo as what they run on racenight (like he encountered at Ashburton a fortnight ago) - especially when you're building towards kicking off another campaign.

In saying that, our trainer/driver did give Sax a decent hitout at home over the weekend and has just kept him ticking over nicely ever since.

"He came through his Ashburton workout well and I'm pretty happy with where he's at," Jonny said last night.
"He's got a tricky marble and there's a few nice ones in his race on Thursday, but that's typical because of the sort of grade he's in.

"The one drawn outside us (Alta Shelby) is being touted as a Derby horse too, so we might be hard-pressed beating it.
"It's Sax's first run back though, so I'll be happy if he runs top four."
It'll be great just to have Sax back at the races again, and regardless of what he does on Thursday I know he'll improve with the outing.

For those of you who are also intending to be there, I'll look forward to seeing you in Spectator's.
(August 8)
Contrary to what it might've looked like from the sidelines when you finish second-last, Jonny Cox was more than happy with Franco Saxon's run at the Ashburton Workouts earlier this afternoon.
Venturing off the place for the first time since he raced at Forbury Park on June 29, Sax was a bit keen once the mobile gate sped away and Jonny was pretty much just a passenger as our boy pushed forward.

Jonny then thought about taking the lead in the 2400m Heat as a result, as he could've slowed the tempo to suit himself and Sax, but even those plans went out the window when the front-runner (Angel Of Harlem) continued to pull fiercely - despite the efforts of its driver Jimmy Curtin to restrain it for a trial.

So, mindful of the fact that Sax had been left parked on a hot speed for the entire event, our trainer/driver just hung onto him in the home straight and let others go past.

Sax finished seventh of the eight contestants, but Jonny still privately timed him to run home in a tick over 56 and 27 for his last 800m and 400m - more than enough of a hitout for Sax in what was his first run back.

"They went 2:58.2 for the trip," Jonny said in almost disbelief, knowing that actual races are run in slower time and this was just a workout.

"Sax blew a bit afterwards which was to be expected, but he also recovered quickly too."
The latter signifies that our pacer was pretty forward for his resumption today, and for that reason Jonny has decided to bypass the intention of another trial and just go straight to the races instead.

"There's a 1950m mobile event for him at Addington on August 24 which might be ideal for him in a fresh state.

"He trialled pretty well at Rangiora prior to heading down to Forbury and running second first-up last campaign, so I thought we may as well try him with just the one trial heading in this time.

"That way, I can just step up his programme a bit more next week to get him ready for it - without having to take him off the place again."
(August 1)
Franco Saxon is off to the trials at Ashburton next Tuesday (August 8).

"He's full of himself and pretty well," trainer Jonny Cox said yesterday, confirming that Sax's latest wee break has done him the world of good.

Jonny had originally planned on lining our boy up somewhere this week, but the recent inclement weather in Christchurch has delayed those intentions by a couple of days.
"I just haven't been able to get the work into him," Jonny said, adding that even horses in NZ's top stable (Mark Purdon's) have had to bow to the Weather Gods during July and missed work as a result.
"I could've gone somewhere with Sax this week, but I just wanted him to be a little bit more 'forward' before I took him off the place again.

"And I'd say he'll have a couple of trials too... the first run will be a quiet one and then we'll go again the following week to give him a more serious hitout.
"A freshen-up like this has worked for him before, so there's no reason why it shouldn't again."
(July 19)
Franco Saxon is into his second week of work as he builds towards a racetrack return.

Jonny Cox says Sax was a bit light in condition after he brought him home from his campaign at Forbury Park, but that was to be expected after our boy made three starts in the space of a fortnight and two of them were hard runs parked.
Having had more than a week off since, he's putting the weight back on again now and Jonny reported yesterday that Sax "is getting his belly back".

"The wee break and freshen up has definitely done him the world of good," Jonny said.
"I only did about three days with him last week because of the weather, so it was more like 'half a week' (of work) really."
Jonny's going to start stepping up Sax's workload again from now, and is planning to give him a trial or workout somewhere in the last few days of July to get a line on where he's 'at'.
"It means he won't resume again until early August, but the slight delay is neither here nor there.
"I've got no concerns with him moving forward from here."
(June 30)
All things considered, Franco Saxon put in a pretty good performance when he wrapped up his southern campaign with a fifth at Forbury Park last night.
Sax got away well to secure the trail behind Wayward Roc, and Jonny Cox and I both thought that horse would stay in front but Dexter Dunn ended up giving the lead away after 400 metres, relegating Sax to a three-deep possie for the remainder of the race.
So much for pre-race predictions, huh?
Wayward Roc then started to tire after the back straight quarter was run in a quick 28.6, and on the bend he was going backwards and holding Sax up as those in front were getting away.
Still, our boy never threw in the towel, picking himself up and running home to finish just inches from fourth.
"I was happy with his run," Jonny said today.

"We knew he wasn't a hundred percent going into it, and Kim was happy too.
"She said Sax was actually still travelling well when Dex held us up, and it probably cost us any chance of running in the money."
Franco Saxon is now back home in familiar territory, with Jonny reporting that he's come through their late night trip back from Dunedin well.
Noel and Wendy didn't have a spare paddock at the moment, so Jonny's found Sax one at Fred Morris's Yaldy Farm and that's where he and stablemate It's All Over Now will spend the next 10 days having a freshen up and being "hard fed".
"I'm sure he'll enjoy the wee break," Jonny said.

"It shouldn't take long to bring him back up (to racing trim) either, and I think he'll be ready to race again sometime towards the end of July."
(June 28)
Seeing how Franco Saxon lacks a bit of gate speed from behind the mobile, we usually wish for any marble bar 'the ace' if he draws the front line.
But he's landed that very barrier position tomorrow night at Forbury Park, and ironically it's ended up being the difference between him lining up and not.
Staying in touch with Amber Hoffman during this week, Jonny Cox says the reports from her stable are that Sax just isn't a hundred percent heading into the last start of his southern campaign.
"Amber says he's a bit tired and probably feeling the racing," Jonny said earlier this afternoon.
"But that's understandable, because he had a quickly-run trial before he went down there and then two hard races (parked) since - both of them where he was just a victim of circumstances.
"In all fairness he's had a pretty hectic last couple of months really, because he made four appearances during May too."
So I asked Jonny if we should just pull Sax out of tomorrow's meeting; he says he threw exactly the same question at Amber and was happy enough with her answers, so between the three of us we've decided to push on as scheduled.
"Sax should still go a nice honest race tomorrow," Jonny said reassuringly.
"It's not like he's sulking in the corner or wishing he wasn't out there, it's just that he's not jumping out of his skin as much as he was when he first arrived.
"To be honest if he'd have drawn anything but one I probably would've pulled him out, but from there he's likely to get a pretty economical trip in the trail or even three-deep at worst.
"And that's because the horse drawn alongside him (Wayward Roc), and Dex, like to lead - so the plan is to do enough to try and hold his spot early, which should result in him not having another hard run.
"He's actually gotten a bit quicker at getting out of the gate lately."
We all know that in the past, Franco Saxon has occasionally displayed a tendency to over-race when on the fence. Jonny isn't worried about him getting fired up for Kim Butt when she takes the reins again tomorrow night though, believing that with the 'edge' being off Sax he's unlikely to do that this time.
"Amber purposefully hasn't done a lot with him during the week," Jonny continued.
"And when I spoke to her this morning, she was about to throw a saddle on him and take him for a paddle in the sea - that can actually do wonders heading into a race sometimes."
The other hurdle we're faced with tomorrow is that it's the toughest field Franco Saxon has faced on this trip, so even if he gets a cosy run in the trail there'll be plenty of others who are sprinting just as hard as he is at the finish.
Regardless of where he finishes, Sax is coming home with Jonny after the races and he'll drop our boy off at Noel and Wendy's for a week to 10 days of well-earned 'R&R'.
"He deserves a bit of a 'freshen-up'," Jonny said, "and it's worked before."


Next starts for our horses:
  • Franco Saxon:
Franco Saxon
Franco Saxon's career to date:
Starts: 37
Wins: 5
Placings: 8
Stakes: $38,907
Click here to be linked with Franco Saxon's details on the HRNZ website


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